Letters to the Editor

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Reader wonders why information in Clarion TV guide is incorrect

Why does everyone have to pay $1 to get a Sunday paper only to have the Clarion TV wrong again. It's been months! Can't you click a button and fix channel 9 to 3 and 3 to 9?

Bet you won't print this.

James Kufhia


KRSA motivated by self-interest, not serving Joe Fisherman

There is really no need to go into a lot of detail about the early kings or how Brett Huber has apparently privatized the declining resource. There has been a plethora of testimonials contrary to the action he influenced at recent Board of Fisheries meetings.

On the topic of boat wakes, Bob Penney got data from the Dorava study squelched in 1999. It stated boat wakes caused 90 percent of the bank erosion in the Kenai River. More to the point, the head of the state Sportfish Division, Kelly Hepler, robbed $50,000 of funding from the Kenai River boat wake study in 2001, passing it along to Board of Fish chairman Dan Coffey to fund halibut meetings of all things.

What Huber cannot seem to quantify now was already done in 1999. A new study is only a subterfuge. He is stalling.

What people really need to know is the hook-and-release restrictions go off the day the Kenai River Classic begins. This is a Huber promotion. Mortality on kings in salt water has been expressed at 25 to 30 percent in ocean studies where fish are hooked only once, have both eyes, and both lips.

Actions influenced by Brett Huber will harm food fishermen and both the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. Ultimately, unless there is unity in blocking Huber's confirmation to the Alaska Board of Fisheries, all the local Joe Fisherman types so lovingly described of late by Les Palmer will get exactly what they deserve -- a river privatized by a so-called educational nonprofit corporation.

Who knows? Maybe we will all be smarter for it the next time.

John McCombs


Biased committee not playing fair with Board of Fish nominee

As accounted in the Clarion's April 19 edition, the Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee's recent ambush of Kenai River Sportfishing Association's Executive Director Brett Huber's nomination to the Alaska Board of Fisheries is totally hypocritical.

This particular advisory committee for years has been viewed by other user-groups as stacked in favor of commercial fishing interests. It is one of the few remaining relics that reflects the bias and domination this industry held over Alaska throughout territorial days and, until recently, through most of the post-statehood era.

The committee's commercial bias shone through when they held their inquisition without the courtesy of even inviting Mr. Huber to discuss how he would approach his responsibilities as a Board of Fish member. Rather, Brent Johnson, the advisory committee chairman and a commercial fisherman, ironically said Mr. Huber "doesn't have the personality traits to be open minded."

So who is and is not open-minded here?

No wonder only one person felt able to stand up during the advisory committee meeting to offer a dissenting opinion regarding Mr. Huber's potential as a Board of Fish member.

Stripped of its pious facade, the actions of this pro-commercial advisory board is merely to regain the past through purposeful manipulation and division of the sport fishing community that has helped Gov. Knowles to establish a more balanced and responsible Board of Fish.

As a fisherman with two king salmon on my walls and fillets in my home freezer, as well as a lodge owner with a strong interest in the vitality of our sport fisheries and it's contribution to the tourism industry, I support those who take a balanced, long-view approach to resource management.

The Kenai River's first king salmon run over the past decade has limped along with consistent use of emergency-type bait and retention restrictions as well as failures to reach minimum, never mind optimal escapement goals. The Kenai River's historically weak escapement posture and previous management plan doomed it to further degradation that, over time, would likely place it in a Deshka River-type closure scenario.

I see the new management plan as a measured, temporary "shot in the arm" to finally increase the consistency of the first run's volume of return before moderate measures are insufficient to fully recover it to it's world class status.

The status quo, band-aid approach for the world's premier king salmon river hasn't worked, so why not invest a few years in order to achieve and sustain larger future runs that can be managed without mandatory catch-and-release restrictions by a wiser-for-the-experience Department of Fish and Game?

If the Kenai-Soldotna Advisory Committee has any credibility left, it should expend it during the Alaska Legislature's approval process of the governor's Board of Fish nominees by encouraging legislators to ask the tough questions they should have had the courtesy of asking Mr. Huber before they unilaterally acted as judge, jury, and executioner.

Robert Siter

Soldotna and Cooper Landing

KRSA, not commercial fishers, responsible for controversy

In the last couple days, two Kenai River Sportfishing Association board members, in independent conversations, have told me this whole state of affairs surrounding KRSA, the Board of Fisheries and the contentious new regulations is a "commie plot" designed to divide and conquer the "sportfishing" community. I have no reason to doubt these two men aren't serious or that they don't believe what they're saying. That dog, however, won't hunt.

First, and above all else, this contentious state of affairs was brought on by KRSA's director, Brett Huber, lobbying the fish board for a totally catch-and-release, with bait, trophy retention fishery for the first run of Kenai kings. Though Huber was only partially successful, that a catch-and-release fishery is replacing a traditional resident harvest fishery remains the cause of all the furor.

There is no way on God's green Earth that resident Alaska fishermen are going to sit quietly by and watch the in-river, commercial fishery allow their clients to kill every 15th king they catch simply for the fun of experiencing the animal's struggle for freedom while Alaskans are denied their birthright to catch and eat those same salmon.

As many of your neighbors have made abundantly clear, Huber and KRSA do not represent resident Alaskans' notion of "sport" fishing. The "sport" fishing community is divided now between those who fish to eat and those who fish for fun and money. That division needed to be made.

The issues are clearer now. But it's not a commie plot. It's been brought upon us by the leadership of KRSA.

John Nelson


Which would resident fishers prefer, Alaskaland or Subsistenceland?

Sport fishing in Alaska has a wild history, but events at the last Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting in Anchorage have placed an even more twisted nature to this already twisted past.

Some people within sport fishing have come to the amazing conclusion that since it is fun to sport fish, you cannot have enough sport fishing. Kind of like you can't have enough money, unfortunately you can have too much sport or commercial fishing.

Alaska's constitution does guarantee its residents access to its surplus natural resources for both professional and recreational activities. The question is, how much of our fisheries resources should be allocated to each? The state, not the federal government must make a lawful and reasoned decision as to where these resources should go.

Equal reasonable access must be granted to both activities when they are similarly situated like professional and recreational sport fishing. The allocation of fisheries within the sport fish use has been an extremely hot issue in Alaska, and opinions vary from requiring equal access to totally banning one or the other.

Big changes are taking place in how Alaska wants to sell its fisheries resources. Historically, Alaska just canned up its salmon and shipped them to a buyer somewhere in the world. The commercial fish market then started to change to a "fresh fish" market.

Technology being what it was, the seller attempted to freeze and transport fish in order to meet this market demand. The market demand then changed to demanding "non-frozen fresh fish," thus fish farms were created to provide the product throughout the year.

At the same time, when the demand for (non-frozen) commercial fish increased, so did the demand for "professional sport fishing." This new professional/recreational, experience began to replace the "traditional recreational experience."

Currently, the traditional recreational "meat experience" is now losing its connection to the

meat and thus only leaving the experience. The sport fish industry is now viewing the same forces which drove Alaska's commercial fishermen to madness over attempting to catch as many fish as possible in order to make as much money as possible.

It is not that "sport or commercial fishing can be the root of all evil," it is that the "love of fish money can be the root of much evil."

It is sport fish greed which can make traditional sport fishing values appear to go bye bye. The human greed factor is just as deadly for traditional sport fisherman as it was for the traditional commercial fisherman. It appears that the greed factor within either industry has the power to transform "normal" humans into wide-eyed, fish crazed lunatics.

This change appears to be a slow progression toward a "professional sport fisherman," who either asks his client to pick up his fish in Alaska or just play with it there.

Alaska's general fisheries industries appears to be moving away from bringing the product to the market and instead bringing the market to the product. This appears to be coming down to an experience-based market which values the experience more than the actual product itself. This market change is an extremely radical market departure from the past and brings up some radical visions of the future.

Can you see a future Alaska which has no commercial gillnet fishing and is 80 percent hook-and-release fishing? Fish fries become a thing of the past, and meals based on fish become more symbolic than part of your diet?

Can you see a Disneyland experience where you purchase a ticket at the Anchorage airport which allows you to ride all the Alaskaland rides but you may only eat fish by purchasing a fish meal from a local retailer/restaurant?

Is "Alaskaland" our long-term fisheries goal which the KRSA and KRPGA have envisioned for our fishing future? If Alaskaland is not the goal, what is the goal? Is the goal some kind of mixture of Alaskaland and what we have today?

How much would the Alaskaland experience change our current traditional values? We think we are having problems with the traditional subsistence issue now?

What kind of signal does the Alaskaland concept send to the federal government, who already believes that Alaska has questionable fisheries management habits?

How can Alaska mix the Alaskaland concept with the subsistence issue, the two directly oppose each other?

Like it or not, we will no doubt end up with some kind of a mixture between the Alaskaland concept and the traditional subsistence issue.

The unbelievable thing is that the state appears to be chasing the Alaskaland concept as hard as the federal government is chasing the traditional subsistence issue. We are not even talking about the state and federal government reading from the same page, it would be nice if we could just get them to read from the same book!

It is like being in a room with two people reading out loud from different books and you can't follow either of them. Which book will we as a state read from, the Alaskaland book or Subsistenceland book?

Don Johnson


Guides' group supports nomination of KRSA director to Board of Fish

Brett Huber is an honest man, the rarest of commodities to be found in a person these days. His record speaks to a variety of issues and causes that he has worked for with indomitable optimism and an infectious pride. He has always been there as a sounding board for new ideas.

I find it interesting that he is being taken to task by the very group that seems to have as its thesis that nothing good has or is being done for the Kenai River by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. It is my belief that the adage "the squeaky wheel is the one that gets oiled" has some merit.

This group has received lots of press time and space to promote their own personal agenda. However, nothing in their message has been constructive, and I suspect they would have great difficulty providing a list of their specific positive actions that they have promoted relative to the river and the surrounding area.

I and the association that I chair, the Kenai River Professional Guide Association, would like to take this opportunity to thank Brett Huber and the Kenai River Sportfishing Association for their support of the following projects, we look forward to working with them this year on the following:

1. Hooked on Fishing. We will be providing donated refurbished fishing rods and reels to local children, young fishers in need of gear. The first distribution will be at the annual Kenai River Festival, June 8-9.

2. Release a Hog, Take Home A Trophy. This will be the third year out that members have participated in this program, and we expect even greater interest and success. This program promotes the catch and release of giant Kenai River kings.

3. Salmon Celebration Program. This is our third year of participation. It will be held at Johnson Lake on May 7. We will teach hundreds of school-age children how to fly and spin cast.

4. Charitable Fishing Days Program. On May 19 we will honor 100 semifinalists in the Kenai Peninsula's Caring for the Kenai program. The entire day will be devoted to showing them a good time. They will be provided a breakfast followed by a fishing trip. The day will end with an old fashion cookout. These are high school-age kids with a variety of science projects that are directly associated with the Kenai River.

5. On Sept. 11, we will honor Southcentral Alaska veterans. We will accommodate approximately 100 veterans with a full day of activities.

6. Illegal Guiding Sign Program. We will be posting new updated signage at the various launch facilities as well as certain business locations indicating the proper sticker displays of a correctly licensed fishing guide. The reward has been increased from $500 to $5,000 for reporting of violations and subsequent conviction.

7. Courtesy Sign Program. We are in the process of producing signs that will be posted at various strategic locations on the Kasilof and Kenai rivers indicating to guides how they can better protect and share the resource.

It has been our pleasure to work with Brett Huber and the Kenai River Sportfishing Association over the years, and we look forward to many more years of such. Thanks for being constructive and caring.

Joseph F. Connors, president

Kenai River Professional Guide Association

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